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The End Of Evangelion

The History of The End of Evangelion

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For the first time ever, The End of Evangelion is being shown in North American theaters. For those who are unfamiliar, The End of Eva was made as sort of an alternate ending to the short-lived anime series Evangelion.

The show follows Shinji, a 14-year-old boy who is recruited by his estranged father to fight in a giant robot, called an EVA, during a war in the distant future. Well, that’s what the show wants you to think it’s about.

As it goes on, it becomes clear that Eva is about a lot more than that. By the end of it, this fun little show about kids fighting in robots has turned into one of the most depressing things I’ve ever watched. It’s not too big of a surprise that even Wes Anderson loved the series, as he would use animation to tell his own melancholy stories with Fantastic Mr. Fox and Isle of Dogs, though I wouldn’t say either of those get nearly as depressing as Eva does.

What makes Eva as great and intriguing as it is, is its creator, Hideaki Anno. It’s pretty well documented that he wasn’t doing too well during the production of the series, and it especially shows in its final two episodes. Rather than focusing on a big fight for a grand finale, he instead decided to break down the psychology of his characters. What we got was (in my opinion) a near-perfect conclusion to the series, wrapping up Shinji’s character arc and giving us more backstory as to why the characters are the way they are. But at the time of release, the ending served to be pretty controversial. Many of the series’ fans thought it was a letdown; after all, they were watching this show to see some cool robots beat each other up, not a bunch of depressed kids talking about their feelings. The final two episodes were so poorly received that even if he was initially reluctant, Anno was pretty much forced to create a new ending, which would become The End of Evangelion film.

The End Of Evangelion 2At first planned to be a direct to video release, it was decided The End of Evangelion would be released theatrically after the studio saw how popular the series got in Japan. The film serves more as an alternate ending than a follow-up, and despite the big spectacle of it all, it never loses the themes that made the show as unique and special as it was. It’s pretty shocking for an animated movie, especially on first viewing, and it’s filled with religious symbolism that I’m not even going to begin to get into, let alone explain.

But I think what I love most about both the Evangelion finales, is that in a way they serve as a big middle finger to the exact people who were watching them at the time. Fans were so pissed at the (hopeful) TV ending that they argued on online forums about the best way to kill the series’ creator, and when Anno finally gave them the ending they wanted, he still made it (arguably more) depressing and, at times, even made fun of the show’s fanbase. When creating the character of Shinji, Anno put himself into him, but by the time he got to making End of Eva, he realized that many of the show’s audience saw themselves in him too. So, of course, the movie opens with Shinji doing something insanely shameful and repulsive to his friend who’s in a coma. (Everyone who’s seen it knows exactly what I’m talking about.) But it’s clear that by the time he was making the film, Anno had grown up, and he wanted Shinji to as well. In both endings, Shinji has to get over his own self-hatred and become a more confident person. And that’s exactly what Hideaki Anno wanted the audience to take away from the series, not “Look how cool those robots were.”

I hate having to explain to people why I think Evangelion is so great (and that’s probably what’s made all this a little difficult for me to write). Even most who are aware of but unfamiliar with Eva seem to think it’s just a typical action/sci-fi cartoon from Japan, and by telling them how much more it really is, I’m almost ruining the surprise in a way. Though I guess it’s a pretty hard show to ruin, and if you haven’t seen it and still aren’t sold yet, keep in mind that even Robin Williams loved Evangelion. Robin Williams. I’m not sure why I find that so cool, but I do.

Neon Genesis Evangelion: The End of Evangelion screens (with subtitles) through Monday, April 1st.
Saturday, Mar 20th – 7:45pm
Saturday, Mar 30th – 5:30pm
Sunday, Mar 31st – 5pm
Monday, Apr 1st – 8pm
Tickets

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